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Congratulations to our 2022 High School Photography Winners!

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA) is pleased to present the winners of our 2022 High School Photography Contest. These winners typify both a creative nature and a love of the outdoors. All of the winners from all of the VOWA contests were announced at our Annual Meeting held October 1, 2022, in Charlottesville. VOWA offers sincere congratulations to the winners and celebrates their outstanding work.


We are delighted to present this year’s high school photography winners. Because of the high quality of this year’s work, the judges were not able to choose just three winners, so you will see five winners in this showcase. We think you will be impressed with the quality of these photographs and the skill of these budding outdoor photographers. We are also thinking that there must be something really wonderful in the water at Turner Ashby High School!

1st place headshot Magdalena Lantz-Trissel.JPG


Best High School Photograph

Magdalena Lantz-Trissel

“Wonders of Driftwood Beach”

Turner Ashby High School

Bridgewater, Virginia

Magdalena Lantz-Trissel is in 9th grade at Turner Ashby High School. She enjoys photography, art, hiking, biking, and running. She participates in cross country and indoor and outdoor track at school along with being a part of the yearbook staff that helps create her school's yearbook. She hopes to become a photographer that helps spread awareness for endangered species and the health of the earth.

Wonders of Driftwood Beach - On a vacation, my family and I visited Driftwood beach on Jekyll Island, and I took photos with our Sony a7iii. Manual photography is my favorite because it gives me full control to create the photo, and with the sun setting it added a fun challenge. The beach was breathtaking with such unique beauty, and it filled me with so much joy to try my best to capture it while enjoying the wonders of nature.

Wonders of Driftwood Beach
Wonders of Driftwood Beach
2nd place headshot Ava Schrag.jpg


Best High School Photograph

Ava Schrag

Turner Ashby High School

Bridgewater, Virginia

Ava Schrag was a senior at Turner Ashby High School when this photo was taken, and is now  attending Virginia Commonwealth University to study photography with a minor in environmental studies. She loves camping, hiking, traveling, learning, playing the violin, and, of course, photography. When she was younger, her days were spent with muddy feet and dirty hair, building forts and fairy houses in her backyard. Her weekends were spent camping and hiking across the state. Days spent helping her dad in the garden and creating her own botanical collection fostered a passion for conservation and sustainability, and her outdoorsy childhood inspired her love for science and the natural world. She had always toddled around the house with her tiny, point and shoot camera, but when in 6th grade, she first tried out a DSLR camera, a Canon Rebel EX. Her aunt had loaned it to her, and for a while she forgot about it.  But, one fall afternoon, she decided to pick it up and take it outside. She became fascinated with the artistic and journalistic aspects of photography and enjoyed using photography to tell her story and the stories of others. She hopes to turn her love of photography into a career in environmental journalism.

Frog: When I spied this frog in the water, I crept closer with my camera, hoping it would allow me to get close enough to get a good shot, and it did. In the evening sun, the water reflected the colors of all the rocks underneath, creating a serene, surreal pattern on the water. I stayed with the frog for a while and captured it from many different angles; this photo ended up being my favorite.

3rd place tie headshot Heather Claytor.jpeg


Best High School Photograph
Heather Claytor
“Japanese Maple Tree”
Colonial Heights High School

Colonial Heights, Virginia

Heather Claytor is a junior at Colonial Heights High School. In her free time she loves to go on runs and hang out with friends and family. She moved to Colonial Heights in 2017-18, and ever since then she has been a straight A student. In school she is a part of the girls varsity soccer team and she participates in Journalism and Yearbook. She spends a lot of time out of school dedicating her focus on these classes to help her classmates know more about their school along with keeping everyone up to date. 

Japanese Maple Tree - This photo was also taken at Maymont Park, Richmond, Va. It was taken with an Icon D3500. While walking around the park, I came across many beautiful flowers and trees, but my mom had seen this Japanese Maple Tree and really liked it. Zooming in allowed the picture to focus on the main beautiful characteristics.

3rd place tie photo Japanese Maple Tree by Heather Claytor.jpg
Japanese Maple Tree
3rd place tie headshot kayla McQuilkin.jpg


Best High School Photograph
Kayla McQuilkin
“A Pop of Color”
Albemarle County High School

Charlottesville, Virginia

Kayla McQuilkin is seventeen years old. When the photo was taken, she was a junior in high school and has been taking photography classes since she was a freshman. She has been interested in photography since she was in middle school when she first borrowed her dad’s digital camera to take photos at the farmers market. She has loved photography ever since.  Her favorite thing about photography is being able to capture life’s beautiful fleeting moments.

A Pop of Color - As the snow continues to drift down from the sky a single bird with striking blue feathers takes a break from its journey to rest on the white handrail. The woods in the background are blurred to help give focus to the tired traveler. The blue feathers provide a burst of color compared to the predominately white and gray elements of the photograph

3rd place tie photo A Pop of Color by Ka
A Pop of Color
honorable mention tied headshot Alannah Murphy.JPG


Best High School Photograph

Alannah Murphy

“Evening Walk Through the Park”

Varina High School

Henrico, Virginia

Alannah Murphy, has always loved taking pictures of her surroundings. Her parents introduced her to photography when she was little, and she has been taking photos ever since. When this photo was taken she was attending  the Center of Communications and Media Relations at Varina High School. Being in the center taught her how to improve her camera and photography skills. She was also the Editor-in-Chief of her school’s newspaper and worked hard to write articles and take pictures for her monthly paper. When the photo was taken, she was in her senior year, and her goals at that time have now been met, including graduating from high school and attending college. She now attends college, and is majoring in communications and possibly minoring in journalism, English, or political science

Evening Walk Through the Park - This photograph was taken when I was walking through Madison Square Park, New York. It had just finished raining and which caused the summer air to cool down and the park was quiet which made it the perfect time to take a late walk. The park was very beautiful because everything was glistening from the rain, and I love how the antique park lights are reflected on the ground.

Honorable mention tie photo Alannah Murphy- Evening Walk Through The Park .jpg
Evening Walk Through the Park
honorable mention tied David Humes headshot.jpg


Best High School Photograph

David Humes

“Light in the Woods”

Turner Ashby High School

Bridgewater, Virginia

David Humes is an 18-year-old senior at Turner Ashby High School. He was born in Chile and grew up with missionary parents whose lifestyle provided the opportunity to fall in love with flying and traveling to exotic places – all things that instill a great sense of adventure. His family eventually settled in a house in Virginia where he now attends high school. David spends a lot of his time finding adventure in new places, seeking trails to explore and finding exotic scenery that can help expand his photo gallery and as he pursues his love of photography. 


Light in the Woods - This picture was taken somewhere very near and dear to me, a forest trail by the river with a walkway up a mountain that takes you right up to a cliff peak. This peak is so beautiful with its view of the entire town of Bridgewater, when taking this picture I was recalling a moment I had felt a few days before, having seen a light in the sky emerging from clouds not coming from the direction of sun,  but instead right above the cliff peak where I had always spent my hardest moments when I needed to contemplate something. The lenses of my prescription sunglasses had diffracted this light into a ray of colorful lights emerging from this light. This was right after the death of my first dog and for a brief moment I had felt that this light was her soul. Even if I may have seemed delusional, I still wanted to believe that and felt the right thing to do was travel up the cliff peak, guided by this light in the woods.

honorable mention tied photograph Light in the Woods DAvid Humes.jpg
Light in the Woods

We thank Dominion Energy for a generous grant that supported our running of the VOWA Collegiate and High School competitions for youth engaged in photographing and writing about our beautiful outdoors. We at VOWA feel these competitions are so very important because they encourage the future communicators and stewards of our natural world. 

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